It’s been a tough year for Kyle Gibson. And he knows it. He’s also not afraid to honestly assess his shortcomings. So, while his pitching performance has been less-than-admirable, his character has held up.
Through 23 starts this season, the righthander is 8-10 (thanks to strong run support) with a 5.59 ERA in 122 1/3 innings. Opponents are hitting .303 versus Gibson, reaching base at .373 clip and slugging .489. He also spent time at Triple A. Not good.
There are signs of hope. His ERA has been shrinking; it’s at its lowest since opening day. In August, it was a solid 3.90. Gibson has pitched 6 2/3 and 7 innings in last two starts and given up a combined 3 runs. I caught up with the 29-year-old after batting practice on Wednesday and had a candid discussion.
DZ: You’ve had a couple of good starts in a row, where are you at right now?
GIBSON: I feel like physically and mentally, I am in a good spot. I feel like it’s been an up-and-down year, to say the least. A lot of extra work trying to look at numbers and look at different variables as to what’s been going on…The last couple of starts, I’ve been able to use my fastball a little bit better and my off-speed a little bit better.
DZ: Is that what’s clicking the most, pitch-wise?
GIBSON: My catchers and I are on the same page ever since the All Star break, where I really feel like it’s turned around a little bit. I think my fastball has been a lot better, the command has been better, I am trusting it a little bit better and I am getting a little bit of confirmation.
DZ: For you, what’s been the hardest part of this year; the lowest point?
GIBSON: I am sure the obvious thing is my getting sent down (to the minor leagues). I think most of it is just knowing that, for a while there, every five days, I wasn’t competing how I want to compete and the team didn’t have a chance to win. When you are in a playoff race like this, you never want to be at the end of the year and look back and be two games out or one game out and realize that you could have done something different. Being in that situation where I was struggling so bad and not giving my team a chance to win was probably the low point because I really thought I was letting them down.
DZ: At this point, you’ve got a month to go and everything is on the line. Is it kind of like “reset”; the season starts here for you?
GIBSON: Ever since I got called back up after the trade deadline, every start, I am trying to do the same thing. I am trying to get a little bit better and give the team a chance to win. I can’t change anything about the numbers on the scoreboard, can’t change anything about the first twenty or so starts, whatever it is, I can only do well today and I can only execute today. I feel like mentally, it’s taken a weight of my shoulders. I am not necessarily trying to just improve on the season, I am trying to improve on today. It’s giving me a lot better focus on my start day.
DZ: What was it like going down to the minors?
GIBSON: It was tough. It was probably one of the last places I saw myself going after three straight years in the big leagues, but it was good reality check. It wasn’t that I wasn’t working hard or that I was just messing around. I think for me, it was a good reality check to where I could say, “Let’s go down and work on some stuff and get away from the pressure,” like I said, of feeling like you are letting your team down. Get away from that and just back to enjoying the game of baseball a little more. No matter what job field you’re in, whenever you feel like you are not doing your job as well as you can, mentally, it’s tough. You don’t want to feel like you are failing constantly. Going down to Triple A gave me some things and, being in an atmosphere where I could work on those things without having to worry about the pressure of failing.
DZ: Like you mentioned, everybody has rough stretches at work. In your job, it gets really public. What that been like? The media, the fans….
GIBSON: It definitely gets magnified a bit because of, not only the situation we’re in with the playoffs, just social media, being on TV and everything like that. It’s a little different. But, you know what, that’s what we signed up for. I try to not let things on Twitter and social media get to me, but we have a lot of passionate fans. They want the Twins to win, so whenever I see comments about myself, you just understand, the fans want to team to win as well. Sometimes, they might think you’re good enough to be here, sometimes they don’t (laughs). And sometimes, I wasn’t. It’s just part of the job. A lot more eyes are watching, especially when you get into the playoff hunt.
See more of David Zingler’s 2017 player interviews:
Jule 15: Max Kepler
May 31: Tyler Duffy
May 26: Taylor Rogers
May 20: Mike Redmond
May 13: Justin Haley
May 11: Craig Breslow
May 5: Chris Gimenez
February 17: Cole Aldrich